Tell it to SunStar: A deserved win for victims’ families

WE WELCOME the court’s decision to convict Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan, who masterminded the heinous massacre on Nov. 3, 2009. This is a long-deserved win for the families of victims of the Ampatuan massacre, who waited a decade for such a decision. We attribute this victory to the tireless pursuit of justice led by the families of the victims, as well as journalists in the country. This is just the tip of the iceberg as the accounts point to the culpability of other actors, who should likewise be held accountable for this heinous crime.

It should be repeatedly registered that the Ampatuan massacre is a State-perpetrated atrocity that revealed the deep and extensive connection between State forces and the local elite. The role and culpability of State actors must never be whitewashed.

This decision is not only a slap on the part of the Ampatuans, but also on their close ally, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was known for leading a regime plagued with human rights violations and impunity. Her government was infamous for committing human rights violations against journalists, dissenters and social activists.

We view the decision as headway, but we maintain that justice delayed is justice denied. With the fact that one of the accused Ampatuan was acquitted, some of the accused were out on bail and other legal remedies were accorded to the Ampatuans because of their friendship with powerful people, this decade-long trial is already a form of injustice for the families of the victims. Likewise, the fact that Gloria Arroyo basks in impunity and enjoys protection under the Duterte government is yet another indication that while there is triumph, it is incomplete.

We laud the families of victims, journalists, human rights advocates, and individuals from civil society organizations who remained unswerving in the pursuit of justice for all the victims killed in the massacre, amid the relentless attacks and harassment perpetrated by the Ampatuans and their allies in the government.

This only proves that years of hounding and demanding for justice pays off. As long as there is relentless efforts from families to exact justice and accountability, the fight will continue. Our justice system would have put this case in limbo if it were not for the resounding calls of families and journalists to remind the nation of this brutal crime. Many of our legal processes are subver-

ted by murderers and plunderers to allow them freedom or simply wait for their crimes to be forgotten, but this case reminds us that impunity is not forever.

While welcoming the court’s decision, we enjoin the public to remain vigilant in calling for the disbandment of private armies of warlords and politicians, as well as of paramilitary groups used by those in power to instigate state terror. (Karapatan Rights Group)